This week, I gave a stakeholder contribution at the The Parliamentary Internet, Communications and Technology Forum at The House of Commons. I represented the University perspective on how we can ensure London stays the tech start up and scale up capital of Europe.
Joining me on the panel was Bill Esterson MP, Vicky Ford MP, James Wise, Balderton Capital, Rajesh Agrawal, Deputy Mayor of London for Business and representatives from Google. Discussion largely focussed on how we can support small and growing tech businesses throughout the UK considering Brexit. A fantastic mix of perspectives.
I highlighted that around Universities are in a unique and powerful position in that we attract some of the most innovative and creative talent from within the UK and beyond.
From my experience working at both London Met and Queen Mary University, out of the 250 early stage businesses that I have supported, around 70% of people have not been from the UK.
At Accelerator, where the start-ups collectively made £22million in revenue last year, created 177 jobs in 2017 and 122 the previous year: approximately 75% of these people are not from the UK.
In my 4 years working in London, this figure has largely remained the same, illustrating that foreign workers are a vital element in the start-up workforce and this is an issue that should not be ignored.
It is also important that Universities continue to bring this talent so that the UK can remain as a pioneer of the tech space.
With regards to students who start businesses in the UK that are foreign born, it is essential to keep them here. We don’t want them going elsewhere when business expands so money and talent is kept within the UK economy. Uncertainty over the immigration policy is therefore rather concerning for this reason. As is access to important EU innovation funds.
In addition, these students must see that they have further incentives, so it becomes an attractive proposition for them to invest themselves here.
Government implementation of Tier 1 Visas was a great response to the attempt of retaining our outstanding talent, however, as there is no standard framework developed for this process, it is subjective in who is selected for each institution.
Universities need to recognise their role in the journey of a tech start-up and leverage relationships with places like tech city and access to genuine legal support for help with growth is also fundamental.
Investment in UK start-ups peaked in 2017, which shows us that we have made firm headway in this space, however, what I have identified in my time working in this space is that is an endless supply of ideas, passion and entrepreneurial spirit. It’s important that we capitalise on this and continue to provide a bedrock for on -going mentoring and financial support so we continue to thrive.